Day Five Koen and I did a lot of walking and climbing. So sore the following days!
The day started bright and early. We headed to Piazza del Duomo, aka Cathedral Square, with Grayson and Tamar. The piazza is comprised of the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Brunelleschi’s Dome, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Baptistry of San Giovanni, the Crypt of Santa Reparata and the Opera Museum. With so much to see and do, we decided to split up. Koen and I started with Giotto’s Bell Tower while Grayson and Tamar began with the Cathedral.
Giotto’s Bell Tower is 87.5 meters high with 414 steps. The tower is known as the most beautiful campanile in Italy, begun in 1334 and finally completed in 1359. Like the Cathedral, the Bell Tower is also clad in white, red, and green marble. The climb was high and narrow, but we made it to the top! What a beautiful view of Florence!
We visited the Baptistry of San Giovanni next for a bit of a rest after the climb. Nothing quite prepares you for the interior. The octagonal building itself is a site to see, but my jaw dropped when I walked in. As the sunshine filtered in, the precious golden mosaics in the dome immediately draw your attention. The central motif is the huge figure of Christ in Judgement. Koen and I sat down, leaned back, and took it all in. Photos can’t do any justice to the beauty of the Baptistry’s interior.
Time was running out, so we decided to go inside the Cathedral, the third largest chruch in the world, which is free to the public. It’s free for a reason. The interior is very underwhelming in comparison to the beautiful facade. After a couple of minutes we’d seen enough and headed to the Crypt of Santa Reparata. Beneath the present-day Cathedral, you have the remains of the original basilica.
After the Crypt we had a little bit of time left before meeting Grayson and Tamar. We mistakenly thought we could climb to the top of the Dome and back in 30 minutes. There are three levels when climbing. The first is at the bottom of the Last Judgement painting inside the dome. When we reached this level we realized we needed to climb back down. But no. Not possible. You have to climb to the next level. Unfortunately there was a large, panicking man in front of us. He was sweating, huffing, and puffing, not realizing the only way down was to first climb up. Finally we were climbing to the 2nd level. This offers an even closer view of the beautifully painted dome. Although so close to the very top, we headed back down. We were not so sure the view would be that much different than the Bell Tower because they’re right next to each other. Only 15 minutes late in the end to our meeting point.
For lunch, Koen, Grayson, Tamar, and I planned a special birthday lunch for my dad. In August we weren’t able to celebrate together, so we postponed the celebration for Italy! After some searching, I found Trattoria Sostanza, a traditional Florentine restaurant more than a century old. It feels like you’re walking into the past. Every article and review recommended the butter chicken, so of course that’s what we all ordered. We finished with some Holy Wine and meringue cake!
After lunch, Grayson and Tamar headed home with Edward while Koen and I headed with my parents to the Boboli Gardens, on the otherside of the river. The Boboli Gardens are located behind the Pitti Palace, where the Medici grand dukes of Tuscany lived. The 16th century gardens are one of the first of it’s kind in Italy. We had beautiful weather for our walk and enjoyed the greenery and collection of sculptures. If you’re heading to Florence, I definitely recommend a visit to the Gardens! You can also bring a picnic with your of Italian goodies.
My parents headed back to the apartment while Koen and I finished walking through the massive Boboli Gardens. Since we were already on the otherside of the Arno River, I wanted to visit St. Minias on the Mountain. This basilica is located atop one of the highest points in Florence – so more walking and climbing…but worth it! What a view! The basilica itself is regarded as one of the most scenic churches in Italy. Adjoining the basilica is the Olivetan Monastery. Koen and I bought some monk-made goodies for my parents to take back for my grandparents! We arrived at the church a bit later (around 5PM) so the sun was setting and the interior was quite dark.
On our way back home, we stopped by the Piazzale Michelangelo to take in the view before heading home. On the way back we picked up sandwiches from All’Antico Vinaio for dinner. We enjoyed our sandwiches at the apartment with a nice glass of Chianti wine.